Monday, October 21, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/19

There's nothing at all special about this week: the middle of a month, the middle of a season, in the last third of the year. But there are always new books being published, which can make any time special if that's a book you particularly want to read.

Below are quick explanations of eleven books that arrived on my doorstep over that past unremarkable week, all of them either just published or coming very soon from some of the finest purveyors of fantastical literature to the North American public. I haven't read any of them -- I'm in the middle of a reading project this month -- but here's what I can tell you about them anyway:

Starhawk is the latest in the series of novels by Jack McDevitt about Priscilla Hutchins, a star pilot in a medium future where the galaxy has just been opened up by FTL travel. This book, however, is a prequel set very early in Hutchins's career: just as she's qualifying as a pilot and the FTL drive is coming into general use. McDevitt has been one of the most dependably entertaining writers in the SF field for three decades now -- particularly if, like me, you have a soft spot for stories about enigmatic alien artifacts. This one is a hardcover from Ace, coming on November 5th.

I might as well continue on talking about November releases from Ace, since I also have three mass-market paperbacks from that line:

Black Heart, the sixth book in an urban fantasy series (called "Black Wings," after the first book, which is nicely convenient as an aide memoire) by Christina Henry about a former agent of Death (as opposed to a former agent of DEATH, the Department of Extraterrestrial Ancestry, Traditions, and Heritage). I gather the heroine is now doing the usual urban-fantasy thing: having a complicated relationship with a devastatingly gorgeous man of some supernatural kind, solving crimes that only she can understand, and probably having a pseudo-law-enforcement job.

Steven L. Kent brings The Clone Assassin, his ninth book from Ace with "clone" in the title. I gather this is called the "Clone Republic" series, and I'm sure Ace's lawyers have made sure those two words are the closest this ever comes to Lucasfilm intellectual property. It looks like a gritty MilSF series, about tough men in tough places making tough choices to defend the soft green fields of Terra, and there's some kind of power struggle going on between the Enlisted Man's Empire and the Unified Authority.

Kris Longknife: Defender is also the latest in a MilSF series, this one named after the main character, by Mike Shepherd. It's the eleventh in this particular series, and, this time out, Kris is off to the far reaches of the galaxy with the shiny new title of commodore to wipe out the nasty aliens lurking there.

Ace's sister imprint Roc also has two mass-markets in November, and those are:

Magic and Loss, the third in a contemporary fantasy series from Nancy A. Collins called "Golgotham." (Collins wrote some really nasty, very modern and cutting vampire novels around twenty years ago, but I hadn't seen anything from her for a while -- clearly, I missed the first two books in this series.) It's set in Manhattan's secret supernatural ghetto -- amusingly, in roughly the same geographic location as the similar ghetto in the comic series Fables -- and features the tough young woman on the cover, who recently developed the ability "to bring whatever she creates to life."

And Devon Monk's Hell Bent is another urban fantasy, beginning a new series called "Broken Magic," about a near-future world in which magic is common, but nearly useless. Except for two young men work work secretly as "breakers" in Portland (the trendy one, in Oregon), where they can turn minor magics into old-fashioned powerful ones. They're getting to hate their work and each other, but then their secret gets out and Other Powers start nosing around, trying to find and control their abilities.

Darkness Splintered is another November mass-market from another sister imprint -- Signet -- of the Penguin empire, which is in the middle of merging with the Random House empire to form an even greater empire, but that only really matters to publishing geeks like me. Darkness Splintered is the sixth "Dark Angels" novel from Keri Arthur, though the angel on the cover doesn't look terribly dark to me -- even her glowy sword is a nice cheery purple color. I have to admit the back cover copy doesn't make much sense to me, with death threats, missing keys to Hell (the "second key," actually), and the usual vampires and werewolves roaming around. So I suspect you want to find the first book, Darkness Unbound, and start there.

Back to Roc: they also have a trade paperback coming November 5th in J. Kathleen Cheney's first novel, a historical fantasy called The Golden City. It's set just after the turn of the 20th century in the city of the same name, a (presumably-fictional) place in northern Portugal where non-humans are banned, but our heroine has been living secretly. Sher's some kind of mer-person, a spy from a city beneath the sea, and vows vengeance when her own friend is drowned.

I've mentioned Fiendish Schemes before -- the long-awaited sequel to the seminal 1987 steampunk novel Infernal Devices -- but it's now a finished book, since it was published on October 15. It's from K.W. Jeter, one of the mad geniuses of genre, and it's available now in trade paper from Tor -- but we warned: this isn't the kind of steampunk that's an exercise in leather-and-goggles fashion and airship fetishism; Jeter has larger aims in mind.

Tina Connolly has a second novel in her series about a secret human-faerie war during the Victorian era in Copperhead, which continues the story begun in Ironskin but shifts focus to the sister of Ironskin's heroine. This one is a Tor hardcover, also on October 15, and it looks like an interestingly specific novel, not a pick-and-mix genre exercise.

And last for this week is Max Gladstone's Two Serpents Rise, the second novel in the loose series begun with Three Parts Dead, which returns to the same magic-dominated alternate world but picks up with a new cast in a new city: the desert city of Dresediel Lex, whose water supply is under attack by shadow demons. Since this is a modern fantasy, the man sent in to clean up the problem is a risk manager (he'd be a member of GARP or PRIMIA in our world), who's working for what may well be that city's insurance carrier. I read Three Parts Dead last year and really enjoyed it: this is a smart, well-defined world, and Gladstone has already told one very good story in it. Two Serpents Rise is a Tor hardcover, coming October 29.

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